El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales will likely face a jury trial in a bid to remove her from office on allegations of “official misconduct and continued incompetence.”
Visiting Judge Tryon D. Lewis issued a citation allowing a petition to remove Rosales from office to move forward. He issued his order Wednesday in a two-page document.
Lewis ordered that the court’s citation and the petition be served on Rosales immediately. She has 10 days to appear and answer the citation.
Paul Ferris, program administrator in the District Attorney’s Office, said Rosales declined to comment on the order, stating that the matter is under litigation.
Lewis’ order notes that El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal “has entered an appearance in this case and is the designated officer representing the state.”
He ordered Bernal “to file either a notice of the state’s intent to prosecute this case or a motion to dismiss it” within the same 10-day period.
“If the county attorney requires additional time to make that determination, then a motion for extension of time should be filed with the clerk,” Lewis’ order states.
“Our office will not be issuing any comments regarding the case,” said Elhiu Dominguez, Special Projects Coordinator, El Paso County Attorney’s Office.
A petition seeking the removal of Rosales on accusations of “official misconduct and continued incompetence” was submitted Aug. 24 by an El Paso defense attorney.
The effort to remove Rosales from office references a string of concerns, including the dismissal of hundreds of pending criminal cases, accusations of “mishandling” of the Walmart mass shooting case and “prosecutorial vindictiveness” leading to a dismissed murder charge last year.
The petition filed by defense lawyer Omar Carmona with the El Paso District Clerk’s Office seeks a jury trial to determine whether Rosales is incompetent to do her job.
“Allowing her to continue as District Attorney puts the public at risk and demeans the office,” the filing by Carmona states.
A written statement issued by the District Attorney’s Office after the Aug. 24 filing called the petition “frivolous,” “a political tactic” and “a political stunt.”
The statement added: “The District Attorney is committed to serving the community of El Paso. Every attempt will be made to address and fight this petition. In a democracy, people vote for their elected officials. This is an assault on the electoral process in a manner designed to undermine our democracy.
“These types of attacks have taken place since the first day the first female District Attorney in the history of El Paso took office. Never has there been so much hateful rhetoric or tactics used against any predecessor.”
Rosales was elected in 2020 and took office in January 2021, replacing Jaime Esparza, who retired after three decades as district attorney for the 34th Judicial District, which includes El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties.
Carmona called the judge’s actions “a step in the right direction.”
“I believe it was a well thought out decision,” Carmona said. “(Lewis) wanted to make sure everything was in order and due form. It seems like the petition, it moves on to fight another day.”
Still, Carmona concedes that the order does not constitute victory in his quest to remove Rosales from office.
“This doesn’t mean the petition has won anything yet,” he said. “Obviously, now it depends on whether the county attorney… is going to decide to prosecute my petition. And that’s entirely up to her and her office and I will respect any decision she makes in regard to how she’s going to proceed.”
Carmona emphasized, however, that his petition is justified and serves the public good.
“There’s merit in my petition, which is why I filed it,” he said, “but now it’s up to (Bernal) on how we proceed.”